Posts tagged sustainability

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On Friday, thanks to Karen Solomon at Opportunity Green I went to this heartwarming awards ceremony, which was far more meaningful than your typical LA awards ceremony:


forever. too busy livin’ it…

but had to write about this. yes, I should first write about how awesome MotoGP was this year, but that can wait. I just went to the absolute coolest, funnest book launch party ever. Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, hosted a party at their world HQ here in SF, and I managed to wrangle me an invite. It was to celebrate the launch of his new book, Strategies for Sustainability. The evening went as follows:

6:00 pm Party starts with a special treat: Warren Hellman plays a couple of bluegrass songs and talks about the history of financial conmen.

Awesome guy, just put together a fascinating website which chronicles the exploits of convicted conmen (and women, but he said he’s had a hard time unearthing any, that either they don’t get caught, or just don’t get involved). Although I missed the bluegrass part.

7:00 pm "Cleanfest" — David Steuer (Saatchi S) in conversation with Adam Lowry (method), Jessica Buttimer (Clorox Green Works) and Michael Green (Center for Environmental Health).

Oh, Adam…words cannot describe the beauty that is Adam Lowry. Not only is he a genius chemist, he is also out to save us from our toxic cleaning chemicals. And in doing so has dragged the rest of the industry along with him. Which actually kinda pisses me off, cuz he’s lost a ton of shelf space at Target to his competitors. Especially upsetting because Method products are FAR superior in every way to everything else on the market. Better for the planet AND works better AND looks better? What more could a girl want? Oh, and he’s drop dead gorgeous. Too bad about the wife and kid…

7:45 pm I’ll share a few words and premiere The Profitron 3,000 (a two minute infomercial tribute to Billy Mays by creatives at Saatchi NY).

Excellent ad, very funny. no idea if it’s available on the internet.

8:00 pm "Bottom Up/Top Down Change" — Greg Dalton from Commonwealth Club in conversation with Nancy McFadden (PG&E), Michael Shellenberger (Breakthrough) and Dave Douglas (Sun).

8:30 pm "Mainstreaming Sustainability" — Joel Makower of in conversation with Steve Bishop (IDEO), Jeff Mendelsohn (New Leaf Paper) and Cari Jacobs (Saatchi S).

I was busy schmoozing by this point, so I missed both of those. But I did manage to get involved in the next bit, even testing my supposedly off the charts rythm memory by doing a bit of drumming with the band. They were nice enough to change rythm with me as I am in no way consistent. 🙂

9:00 pm Obafemi Origunwa (Saatchi S) interactive drumming on the topic of cultural sustainability.

9:30 pm Fire Dancers outside on York Street.

The perfect way to end any party! Get everyone out into the street for something incredibly cool (pix & vid coming…) and then send us home content in the knowledge that we truly live in one of the greatest cities in the world. SaatchiS rocks for giving us one of those truly San Francisco experiences.

line dry

line dry, originally uploaded by pinkyracer.

what have I been up to? Well, doing what I did best as a child. Degrading the property value of my parent’s home. 😉 Today was very productive, not only did I actually apply for a job or two, I straightened up around the house, and installed this clothesline. And did the laundry to hang on it. I was calling it “The Clothesline Experiment” and then I recalled that I’m an old hand at line drying. Although, for Baywood, where the average home price is safely over 6 figures, it was certainly unusual.

Why, in Barcelona, that’s all anybody did, unless they wanted to pay 4 euros for the (American) dryer in the laundromat. And instead of nice, expansive backyards to hang their clothes in, everyone had a rack hanging out the window. Sometimes on windy days, peoples clothes would blow onto my patio. I never knew quite what to do with them, and put them all in the hall, in case they came from someone in my building.

I never thought it would happen, but I’m actually homesick for Raval. Shitty neighborhood, but I do miss the city life. Even though I’ve been in San Francisco pretty much every evening since I arrived, it’s still not enough.

So none of my clothes blew off, because I used plenty of clothespins. Tried the old-school ones, that are pure wood, no hinges, and discovered they can leave splinters, so the delicate clothes got the little curtain clips I bought for no good reason at IKEA in Barcelona. Which work great for this purpose.

Anyway, I was partly trying to conserve energy, partly trying to prevent undue wear on my clothes. My parents have a rather old washer and dryer, so they are a bit rough on the clothes. But I wussed out and did some things in the dryer, the things I knew would be better off there. So I technically did not save any energy. If anything, I wasted some, since the dryer wasn’t full. Yes, this is one green strategy that should be all or nothing.

I think I’ll talk dad into buying a Bosch energy star washer & dryer. Or whatever equivalent they sell at Costco, the store that can sell him ANYTHING.

It was a good experience for Valentino as well. I finally let him come outside for a minute. After so many years of me acting like the world was about to end every time he so much as looked at an open door or window, he was terrified, and ventured out very cautiously. Poor guy. I think it’s time we got him a chip n collar so he can go play in the grass like a real cat.

a proper trash can

a proper trash can, originally uploaded by pinkyracer.

Now tell me honestly- If it was THIS easy, would you still throw your
recyclables in with your trash??? While the color coded bags might be meaningless to most people, there are little icons of what goes where, and one can peek into the bag to see what has gone before.

Should all trash cans, particularly in public places, be like this? What could be done to improve this design?

This one seems more obvious, with the shaped openings and color photos, but it’s overwhelming and quite hideous. If you’re going for any kind of ambiance other than “trash sorter” it misses the mark. But does it contain lessons for the first model? The first one was in the train station in Bilbao, the second one was sighted at the Barcelona airport.

Don’t call it the D word

It’s not a depression. It’s not even a recession. It’s a restructuring. Just as a mismanaged company goes into Chapter 11 to restructure with the hope of coming out stronger, the world economy is doing the same. It’s critical that we stop this downward spiral of negative thinking and focus on the companies and people that are doing well. There are plenty of them all around you, just open your eyes. In the world’s poorest countries, millions of people are just as well off today as they were last year. In London, people are still buying the latest Ferraris and wasting them on running errands. Or Lamborghinis, as below. In recent years we passed a major milestone. Today, more than 50% of the world’s population are "middle class" for the first time in history. For Economist subscribers:

flying away

snow!.JPG, originally uploaded by pinkyracer.

So I’ve been traveling a lot, and didn’t even write about Paris. It was freezing. This lovely mountain scene is in the hills outside Barcelona. This winter has been the coldest winter Europe has seen in a very long time. Kinda scary, considering what we learned in “An Inconvenient Truth”- that Europe will actually get much much colder as a result of polar ice melt. yowza. It’s happening already. If I’d known, I woulda gone to South Africa for exchange!

oh, for the greater good…when all I really want is my bed.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "During his time in the Senate, former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain has been a strong advocate for Native Americans. As chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, he sponsored or co-sponsored seven bills in support of Indian rights. And yet Native Americans voted overwhelmingly for McCain’s opponent, Barack Obama, who has no such track record. When asked why, Native American author Sherman Alexie said that unlike most other groups, Indians don’t vote merely for their own narrow self-interest, but rather for the benefit of all. They felt Obama would be the best president for America. That’s the standard I urge you to use in the coming weeks, Aries. Stretch yourself as you work hard for the greater good, not just your own."

Highly appropriate, Mr. Brezny, considering what’s been on my mind this week. It’s hard to maintain my values here, while adjusting to a new city with different values. For example, to me, recycling is just the baseline. In Barcelona, it’s a weird thing that few people do. I am going to have to approach my roommate and tell her I want to take the recyclables to one of the street recycling depots. There are some big recycling bins around town, but apparently no recycling with apartment trash. There’s recycling at school, which is nice. And bottled water. People here swear the tap water is poison, but I’ve been drinking it and feeling fine. There’s even some old fashioned taps in parks to refill my bottle at. I paid 60 euros for a Brita faucet filter, and am waiting until my roommate seems to trust me a little more (I think she thinks I’m strange, but then, I am) before I spring this frightening concept on her. How do I convince someone in Spanish that filtered tap water is cleaner than bottled water?

I want to be cool, fit in, but I also want to be me. I don’t feel like myself right now, I feel like a total noob. Which is normal, especially considering I’ve spent the past 18 months in the backwoods of North Carolina. OK, so people from the real backwoods of NC might argue that Durham is actually a rather cosmopolitan city, but you know. Compared to Barcelona, it’s hicksville. So I’m glad I’m here, but I’m back to the feeling I had while living in Paris of being an outsider. No matter how fluent I become, I simply can’t express myself fully in a 2nd language. It never feels "real." Which is why I came out of my shell while living in Paris. I had always been afraid to speak my mind (no, really, I swear) and doing so in a foreign language, even if it was just cursing out a shitty waiter, really helped prepare me for New York City.

Tonight was an exercise in frustration around this whole nonsense of being in a "foreign" country. If the world is so small, why does it cost so damn much to make a call to the US on a cell phone? It’s not like we’re using undersea cables anymore. WTF? I have been trying to find a memory foam matress topper because I am a princess who has a swank CA King tempurpedic sitting in a warehouse in Durham. I can sleep on nothing else. Yet a 2" sliver of foam (ok, special foam, the cheap foam is cheap) costs at least 300 euros. It’s $70 at Target. argh. If I at least had a bike… but I’m waiting until it gets a smidge warmer, because well, it’s a good idea to get settled first and because it’s cold as f%&k. 🙂 I have snow-capped mountains. like, hollerin’ distance away.


I have to stop buying cotton. 🙁 For all my whining about how the cattle industry is sucking up what precious little water we have left, I just found out (courtesy of H&M’s CSR report) that it takes 2,245 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make one pair of jeans. No idea if that’s with the most efficient irrigation methods (70% of farm water is wasted worldwide due to poor irrigation) or with typical irrigation.

That means I’ve got at least 40,000 gallons of water in the jeans sitting in my closet. Including the socially responsible pair that just came in the mail.

My deepest apologies to those who were hoping to do a little subsistence farming with that.

Dreaming of Frisco and Drunkards

So in this dream I was in a car with some coworkers, looking for some restaurant in North Beach. At first it was a right-hand drive car, but then I realized the driver was drunk, as he was slurring and driving like an idiot. I told him I should drive, and he said OK, and we didn’t have to stop and change seats, the controls just became functional on my side. But the brakes didn’t work, which was scary. Luckily we were on a flat stretch, rare in SF. After much pumping, the brakes started working again, and I continued driving.

Damn, I forgot the rest. If I remember it tonight I’ll record it. Anyway, all is right with the world now, Rossi is leading the championship and won Mugello for the 7th time in a row. Oh, and I had a blast at a track day in Savannah, GA this weekend. Awesome track, adorable city.

Oh wait, it’s back. This is the good part. We were out of the car and walking, about to cross a very steep street with a green median. This punk guy was doing a rolling stoppie BACKWARDS up the hill. I was so impressed with his ability to defy physics and modern motorcycle technology, I simply had to stop and talk to him. Plus he was cute. Similar tall/curly blond hair type to the South Africa dream. Hmmm. So while I was asking him how he did it, he told me his name. Jerm.

This was a real blast from the past (shift to reality for a minute here), as Jerm was this skinhead I’d hung out with at this abandoned school that we used to squat in the Haight. So it’s someone I hadn’t seen since 1985. Back to the dream: I asked to see his arm, to see if the time he carved my name in it had left a scar. Turns out he’d not only carved it bigger than all the other girl’s names, but gone ahead and inked it too, so it became a tattoo. Strange behavior for a man who never called or revisited the usual haunts.

Well, while we were talking, my brain had too much trouble accepting the whole “defying physics/mechanics” thing, and morphed his bike into a skateboard. Pfft. anyone can coast a skateboard uphill and launch it off their buddy’s back. OK, maybe in my dreams that’s easy. That was boring, so I morphed it back into a bike, and said goodbye, as my coworkers were anxious to get to the restaurant. Jerm teased me a little for looking so corporate, and I tried to make some joke about how punk rock it is to be a sustainability consultant. But then I remembered it’s more of a hippie thing, which is even worse than being corporate, really.

Dude. I’ve sold out.

and speaking of gems…

this is a really really good use of lawyers!

Finally, someone is sticking it to DeBeers. After all those years of exploiting miners and overcharging customers, people are at least realizing what Putzes they were to pay so much for diamonds. The really cool thing would be if all the people who win settlements decide to give their money to miners in Africa.

We didn’t visit any mining companies while we were there, but I was really curious to learn about diamond mining today, to see if it’s gotten any better. One source told me they have a strong union and earn at least minimum wage. But then, labor rights are strong all over South Africa now, not just in mining. The problem is, there aren’t enough jobs, because unions and BBBEE scare off all the MNC’s that normally come along and build factories in developing countries. South Africa has much higher minimum wages than most developing countries. Partly because it’s really quite developed, but also because they might not have been thinking about global competitiveness when apartheid ended and these laws were written.

The most heartbreaking thing I heard about mining was the prices the prostitutes charge, because there are so many women with few alternatives. 25cents with a condom, $2 without. And we’re not talking about some massive exchange rate like in Zimbabwe. Garment workers earn about $2 per hour in SA, so I’m sure miners earn more than that. How many times have any of us spent an hour’s wages, or less, on coffee? lunch? It kills me that these women are forced to devalue themselves so much, having to go for high volume to compensate for such horrendously low margins.